Then and Now: St Peters Church (ruins)

When the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship was in the PE Harbour a few weeks ago I took a drive to the St Peters Church ruins in South End as it has a great view of the harbour.  It’s been a year or two since I’ve last been there so I took a walk around the ruins and snapped a few pictures.  I found this old picture of St Peters with the Fishermen’s Cross in front of it and decided to do a Then and Now post with it.
St Peters Anglican Church was started in temporary premises as a daughter church of St Mary’s in 1871. The church obtained part of the St Mary’s cemetery land and built a permanent church building just above the cemetery in 1875.  It was designed and built by Rev George Smith, who became the first minister. The church was inaugurated in 1877 and served the culturally mixed community who resided in South End.  The church also housed a school for coloured and Malay children, as they had no school of their own.  St Peters was the first school in South End to educate up to standard 6 (grade 8) which was the maximum level available for coloureds at that time.  During the 1960s, the apartheid Government declared South End as a white area and the existing residents were forcibly removed.  The Government decreed that some churches, mosques and schools would be spared the demolitions, and initially St Peters church survived.  By 1970 most of the congregants had been forced to leave the area and the church was not that much in use anymore.  It was deconsecrated in 1972 and the empty building was vandalised to the extend of what little is left of it today.
Source of information “South End as We Knew it” by Yusef Agherdien, Ambrose C George and Shaheed Hendricks as well as “Port Elizabeth” by Margaret Harradine.
The ‘Fisherman’s Cross’ in front of church in the Then photo stood in the grounds of St Peters Anglican Church and was so called because it stood as a symbol of love and hope for the men in the trawlers and line boats in the bay. It could be clearly seen from all parts of Algoa Bay and faced across the mouth of the Baakens River. The Cross was unveiled and dedicated as a memorial to those who served in the Great War of 1914-18.
The figure on the cross was a life-sized one and had been imported from Belgium. Kohler Brothers supplied the 12 foot high teak cross, and a parishioner John Hendricks, did the concrete work and stone masonry.  Somewhere in the late 1950s the figure, for some unknown reason, fell and broke and it was replaced by a cement sculpture
Amazingly, the Cross survived the might of apartheid laws and the bulldozers of the Group Areas Act in the late 1960s and early 70s. It was taken to the church of St Mark and St John in Parkside in the Northern Suburbs, and today it overlooks the noisy N2 motorway, still bearing witness.  I have to be honest when I say I have never seen the actual cross so I think it’s time to pay it a visit in Parkside. 
The Now photo was taken from behind the church as I just couldn’t get a similar angle from the front.  As you can see there isn’t much more than just the outside walls of the church left standing today.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Diana Studer

    so interesting to relive a slice of our history.And how sad that not even the fishermane's cross was allowed to stand.

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